Friday, November 20, 2009

Thanksgiving: A Time to be Thankful

Wow, it has been a fun week following this series! And, I feel like I get the fun part of sharing about decoration ideas and traditions! As I began to think about this, I thought a good first place to start was in preparing our hearts for thankfulness. How can I communicate that to my children? How do I instill a grateful heart, when our human nature urges us to want more or better?

One of my favorite books for young children on thankfulness is Count Your Blessings. Little Bear and his mama count through his days all the things he has to be thankful for. I decided it would be fun for my girls to make their own book counting things they are thankful for.

I am planning to do this with my girls: look around for things we are thankful for - one thing, two things, etc... all the way to ten. We will take pictures, print them out and make a little book out of them. It would also be fun to make them into coloring pages for them to decorate! Try this site using this code (PR24QCHT) to create these! (Thanks, Carrie!)

Another thing we do every November, is something my Mom started when we were growing up. I've shared about this on my blog before - but since it is a tradition, it is worth sharing again! My Mom would make a chart that had all the letters of the alphabet down one side and, during the month of November, we would write things next to that letter we were thankful for that started with that letter.

I've created a table in Word that can just be printed, cut out and taped into one long strip, and have continued this tradition every year in my home as well. Click on the pages to enlarge and print if you are interested in doing this in your home.

After we have begun creating a mindset and heart of thankfulness in ourselves, the next thought that comes to me is how can we reach out to others. During big holidays like this, there are many who are overlooked. Many who do not think this is a happy time or maybe feel like they don't have anything to be thankful for.

I remember in my late teen years and then when I was single, going to a soup kitchen to help serve Thanksgiving dinner. I have tried locating something like that where I live, but haven't been successful at finding a place seeking help.

When that happens, it forces us to be creative doesn't it? I want my children to remember reaching out to others for as long as they can remember. I don't necessarily think that they aren't old enough to start learning now.

Now, lots of you know that my husband is a police officer. And, when I asked his advice about this dilemma, he suggested that we offer to have an open house on Thanksgiving afternoon to allow the officers working that day a chance to come by and have a warm and tasty meal. I love that idea!

I can certainly remember the days when it was my husband who was having to work on holidays and I appreciate the service of these men and women to our community. We usually eat our family dinner in the evening anyway, so it works great for us to make the meals available in the afternoon. We just found out they are going to take us up on this and I'm planning to have my girls draw pictures to present to each officer as well to help include them in the opportunity.

Of course, each family will have to think of what would suit their situation, family size, age of children, etc... But, here are a few ideas to get you going:

* Check with your local police or fire stations to find out about serving those who are faithfully serving your community.
* Call Meals on Wheels and volunteer to deliver meals on Thanksgiving Day to give regular volunteers a day off with their families.
* Find a local Soup Kitchen or Salvation Army that is serving dinner and volunteer.
* Check with your local hospital, children's hospital or nursing home to find out how you could help there.
* Call a children's or women's shelter and inquire about serving.

This is just a small sample of ideas we could check into. The main thing is how we present it to our children.

One other thought on reaching out is something we do every year as well! This is another one I mentioned last year, which is the Thankful for You Breakfast tradition. Each year, I make and deliver a special Thanksgiving breakfast to someone who has been a blessing to me or our family during the previous year as a way of saying we are thankful for them. You can read more about this idea and find recipes here.

Now that we have prepared thankful hearts and actually reached out and served others, let's talk about our own table and how to make it special.

I am one of those people who likes to think of something new and different every year, something that makes the table special and beautiful. Here are the things I'm planing this year:

I started with a simple piece of burlap as a table runner! Next, add your dishes ~ napkins, silverware and glasses to make sure you have enough room for the important things!

Now, comes the fun part! Look around and find a pitcher, pot, anything that you like for the centerpiece. I tied a ribbon around mine and an old pocket watch to tie in with the idea of a "Time to be Thankful" ~ now, go outside and find some limbs: your choice! Either with leaves on or off, whatever you think looks pretty. Provide markers to have guests write things on the leaves they are thankful for!

The pumpkins have been on my porch decorating for Fall out there. After Thanksgiving, I will cook and puree them for making pies.

Create place cards! I used old spice and perfume bottles here and filled them with pumpkin pods and corn. Gather some sticks from your yard and cut out scrapbook paper - top with a photo of the guest and there you have it!

I am Thankful For cards: Having just gone through a family loss - it reminds me that often we aren't practiced at sharing with those close to us why we are thankful for them or love them. Why not take the opportunity to share while we can!?

Another fun idea would be to learn a hymn together as a family. Memorize a special passage of Scripture, study about the first Thanksgiving, there are so many things you can incorporate!

I've had fun sharing about our Thanksgiving traditions and would love to hear yours as well! Don't forget to link up your Thanksgiving ideas tomorrow at Crystal's and thanks so much for joining all of us this week for this Thanksgiving series!


Lisar said...

Reading all of your thanksgiving ideas makes me wish we had a similar day here in Australia.... and makes me think about how I might be able to reach out to others without having such a day. Thanks for the prompting and reminder.

aspiritofsimplicity said...

these are such wonderful ideas. This is the first year my son will not be home during the holiday season as he joined the Coast Guard. He will be working on the ship on Thanksgiving and he will be in the Caribbean on Christmas. So, even though it is not quite the same, I still appreciate that you will be helping other service men and women who will be working on these holidays.

Alison said...

These are all such thoughtful, beautiful ideas. My husband is in the military and works in a job field that has required him and his fellow soldiers to work many holidays. A few years ago I found myself cooking two Thanksgiving dinners: one for the soldiers who worked on Thankgsiving and one for my visiting family. It was stressful in my small kitchen, but it was still a fun way to serve others.

Thank you for the wonderful Thanksgiving ideas.

Mom said...

Great post, Monica, and I love the idea of having an open house on Thanksgiving for officers working that day! Hope it's a great success -- thanks for sharing. Love, Mom

$5 Dinner Mom said...

I wanna come eat at your table Monica!!! I especially love the "I'm thankful" card at each place setting...I think I'll print some cards out (as I'm not up for a trip to the store yet!) for this year. Thanks for sharing all your fabulous ideas!!!


Amy @ Finer Things said...

What an example! Beautiful, simple, meaningful. The perfect Thanksgiving.

Unknown said...

Such beautiful ideas. I'd like to do an alphabet gratitude chart with my little ones.

Wendi said...

Love your tablescape. Simple, yet very fallish.

I have been trying hard to make this a meaningful holiday. To stop and count all of our blessing. You have some great ideas. Thanks for sharing!

Heather @CeliacFamily said...

Love, love, love all the ideas. Thank you for the inspiration. I, too, have been wondering how I can better teach my kids the significance of the holiday. Your table setting is lovely, too. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Bevy @ Treasured Up and Pondered said...

Once again, you've got a lot of great and useful ideas. Thanks, Monica.

I like the Word. doc. link ... and then notecard papers on the plates. thank you!!

Anne Marie@Married to the Empire said...

I really love the idea of having an open house for your husband's coworkers who have to work the holiday. What a sweet idea that serves such a great purpose!

SnoWhite said...

what fun ideas -- and so simple to implement too! I love keeping things simple - it allows me to focus on the reason for celebrating.

FishMama said...

I love the idea of serving public servants! My world is so small, sometimes I don't think about those things. Thanks for the inspiration.

Tim and Susan said...

What a beautiful welcoming! I love the little vases with sticks and popcorn and name cards. The old skates are cute too.

*carrie* said...

Such a beautiful table as usual, Monica! And what a great way to use the coloring page resource from Crayola. I am THANKFUL for you!

Anonymous said...

Monica, that is so thoughtful! Your caring heart (and good cooking) will make a big impression on your husband's colleagues.

We are delivering Thanksgiving meals to the elderly and disabled, many of whom have no family. I keep saying we would do this someday, and suddenly I looked up and my son was 7! Someday is now!


Simple Home said...

I love your ideas and your table looks beautiful. What inspiration you provide.

Hoosier Homemade said...

You have such wonderful ideas! I love that you are having dinner for the officers who are working.
Not sure if you remember, but a few years back, we were both readers of Amy's MomAdvice Blog and commented on her forum.
I have visited you several times since.
I have a Blog now, and would love for you to visit!
Thanks for sharing all the great Thanksgiving ideas!

Kendra@My Insanity said...

Love the A-Z idea. We are working on a gratitude tree. I thought I should mention that Paper and Cake has free downloadable table decorations for Thanksgiving that budget-minded people might be excited about.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your reminder for us to be Thankful. Sounds kind of redundant but many times we do forget. I appreciate what you said about your husband's work company. I live across the street from firemen/women and had give them brownie's and tracts some times ago.
(I have the flu) but if I feel I won't be contagious, I would like to bake them a cake and some brownies next week. Don't have enough to give a full meal but maybe they would enjoy the sweets:)

Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

You bless... again and again.

Humblest thanks...

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled across your blog and I like it! I have seen other posts on other blogs about homemade items and gifts, and they seemed too chinsy or "homemade" looking, but I love your ideas! How do you participate in the Noel Swap? Thanks again.


Anonymous said...

I love your ideas, my kid are all grown now, but I would love to implement some of your ideas with my grown children and grandchildren. Thanks and have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Freebie Maven said...

I rarely comment on blogs. I just had to tell you that I think your Thanksgiving meal planned for the policemen and women is such a wonderful, loving thing to do. In reading your blog over the past year, it really doesn't surprise me, as your sweetness and loving heart shine through your posts.
Much love! Kathy

Unknown said...

What great ideas! I love the thankfulness alphabet. JDaniel is 20 months and we are doing a thankfulness chain each morning. He is thankful mama, daddy, and cheese everyday . We will have to wait a couple of years to the alphabet. Thank goodness my husband and I have different things each day.

Amy said...

What a beautiful table and great ideas for giving thanks. This post came at a great time, thank you :)

Grace said...

I really enjoyed reading this Monica! Good, simple, practical ideas. But it makes for a more meaningful Thanksgiving.

I am thankful to have you as my best friend. =)
Love you

Anonymous said...

Beautiful thoughts- I am inspired to get back to work on my plans!
Thank you!
Jen N

Su said...

Just wanted to let you know that I linked to your post. I have been doing a series on intentional gratitude and thanksgiving activities. . I loved your counting and abc book ideas. . thanks for the inspiration!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the booklet idea that your mom used to do with you. I am a kindergarten teacher and I used the same idea with our school's two kindergarten classes. Each student was to go out in the hall to draw or write three things that he or she was thankful for. A different colored piece of paper was labeled with each of the letters of the alphabet. Many other teachers liked the new idea. I even took a picture so that I can remember for next year. Thanks for a great idea! Maria